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Fugawi .v. Volvo…?

What have these two companies got to do with each other …you may ask!

Well, my buddy the “oil baron” took me out on his brand new Sealine F42 recently. The F42 is a fantastic motor boat, but of course one of the issues of owning such a boat – even if you are an “oil baron” – is that you want to be able to gauge the fuel consumption as you speed along at 20+ knots…

The F42 has a planing hull, and 2x Volvo Penta Diesel IPS500 370hp (or 435hp) engines…. you really would want to know the optimum speed (for the sea conditions) and also the trim tab setting for the sea conditions and the speed that you are doing. If only you had some sort of dial that would show you the impact on fuel consumption, as you adjusted the trim tabs up/down or, as you powered down or up on the throttles.

Volvo_EVCWell – as you may suspect – the F42 comes with a system to do just that. It’s the Volvo EVC system. This is composed of the panel shown here plus the engine control throttles and associated switches. There is a very good video showing the Volvo EVC system being used at BoatTest.com. What struck me – and the oil baron – as strange was that there was only one fuel consumption gauge even though there were two IPS engines. This may be because the software in the EVC system is so clever that it automatically adjusts the fuel efficiency of both engines such that a combined reading is the only sensible one to show (?) – I don’t know – more digging around required!

In fact the Volvo EVC system even has a cruise control and auto trim assist button the former automatically keeps the speed you set, the latter adjusts the trim for optimum fuel efficiency – job done!


Murphy_HelmViewThe Murphy HelmView is a plug-and-play system that works with J1939 and NMEA 2000 protocols to allow the sharing of information between onboard electronic devices. There are three CAN (Control Area Network) inputs that can integrate engines, gensets, NMEA devices, and GPS. On a display at the helm, you can view everything from speed, engine rpm, and fuel burn to waste-tank level and rudder angle. You can even view trim tab levels.

The 6.4-inch colour VGA LCD flat-screen display can also act as a backup chart plotter since it is compatible with Navionics chart displays – the same one that you would use in your Raymarine chart plotter. Murphy have been in partnership with a number of companies to supply their engine and engine-driven controls and monitoring systems e.g. Nautique LINC digital display system.


Fugawi_Avia1Both these systems are pretty much aimed at the power boat owner – but what about sailors?

Well there is a system that is interesting since it is aimed at Microsoft Windows users – and could be used in either power or sail boat systems and it comes from Fugawi. The Fugawi Avia software receives data from onboard sensors via the industry standard NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000® protocols, and presents the data as analog and digital instruments on your Windows® PC, netbook or tablet.

If you click on the image and look at the enlargement you will see that each engine is monitored separately on a twin engined power boat. Of course this is instrument data display – it does not provide the logic and the control of the Volvo EVC system.

As I mentioned in my previous post on the virtualisation of instrumentation on boats…the Avia system is actually produced by the Avia Design Group and is part of their range of virtual instrumentation products.

If your are using other software on your laptop you can have the instruments that you want to see overlay the screen so you can watch both at the same time – neat idea.

The title of this post is a bit tongue in cheek of course – if your boat is not drinking 100+ litres of fuel per hour – then a cheaper system than the Volvo EVC may be more up your street. However, if you do have a boat such as the Sealine F42 – then the Volvo EVC is an essential item – and knowing how to use cruise control and auto trim is a good technique to master!


Oil tanker piracy equal to 1/4 of Saudi daily output !

Sirius StarSomali pirates have hijacked the MV Sirius Star, the largest oil tanker yet to be seized by gangs operating off the off the Horn of Africa.

The Saturday assault occurred 450 miles (724 km) southeast of Mogadishu, Somalia, in the Indian Ocean, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

One of the world’s largest oil tankers and owned by Aramco, the Sirius Star is 1,800 feet long, or about the length of an aircraft carrier, and can carry about 2m barrels of oil.

Last week, pirates hijacked three chemical tankers off the Horn of Africa and Piratesfreed another. On Sunday pirates freed the Hong Kong-flagged Stolt Valor and its crew after a $1.1m (€880,000) ransom was paid, according to Reuters.

Odfjell, one of the largest shipping groups in the world, responded to the attack by suspending its routes through the Gulf of Aden in favour of the longer journey around the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of South Africa, raising the prospect that one of the world’s busiest trade routes could be sidelined unless global action is taken to combat the pirate menace.

There have been 77 attacks on vessels in the Gulf of Aden this year, with 31 Kenyahijacked, according to the International Maritime Bureau, which monitors piracy. Efthimios Mitropoulos, secretary general of the International Maritime Organisation described the crisis in the region – the gateway to the Suez Canal – as among the most severe facing the world.

West Texas Intermediate, the US benchmark for oil prices, rose $1.40 to $58.44 a barrel in early trading. Brent, the European benchmark, climbed to $55.33, up $1.10 on Monday 17th November.


Electric cars today, electric yachts tomorrow?

Diesel EngineThe bottom line is that without the automotive industry we would not have efficient and affordable diesel engines for our boats.

So monitoring the recent advances in the automotive industry will give us a good idea of what is going to happen to the design of boat propulsion tomorrow.

We need the car industry with its R&D budget, its mass consumer market, and its economies of scale to get new and innovative propulsion in our boats.

A great site for monitoring all aspects of alternative propulsion for cars is the Green Car Website.

A new generation of electric public service vehicles, including postal vans, police vehicles and ministerial limousines is to be introduced as part of a UK government initiative to speed up the introduction of low-emission technology on Britain’s roads.

A number of ministers, including Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, are already chauffeured in petrol-electric hybrid cars, and all of the Department of Transport’s official cars are hybrids. But plans unveiled yesterday will put green vehicles at the heart of the government’s fleet. Around £20m will be available to provide electric and low-carbon vans to public sector organisations, including Royal Mail, the Metropolitan police, the Environment Agency and the government Car and Dispatch Agency as well as councils around the country.

The announcements are part of a £100m proposal by the government to develop the technology and infrastructure needed to make electric and low-carbon cars a practical reality. As part of the plans, motorists will be able to test-drive demonstration models of the latest electric cars in locations around Britain from next year. Each car will need to keep within a maximum emission of 50g CO2/km. Drivers will be asked to report back on their experiences as part of a consultation.

In addition, around £30m will be used to develop research into electric vehicles. This includes work to make car designs more practical and affordable, as well as developments of more general technologies for vehicles that could deliver big carbon reductions in coming decades.

TeslaThis car is a Tesla Roadster, and it looks remarkably like a Lotus — no surprise, because the Tesla is built on the Lotus assembly line in England. The surprise, though, is how much it is also like a small Ferrari and how utterly quiet it is.

We tend to associate sports cars with finely tuned, sexy exhaust-noise gasoline engines.

The Tesla is nothing like that. It is quiet and quick. The Tesla people say it will do zero to 60 mph in four seconds and will top out at 130 mph. And if its creators have their way, it will be a permanent niche in the eclectic and rarely successful field of electric-powered cars.

A handful of firms is out there, trying to build cars for this new, expensive niche. So far, it appears that Tesla is the closest to actually getting some cars on the road — the Silicon Valley firm says 40 well-heeled customers have paid $100,000 each for a car, even though they won’t get their new toys for at least a year. The buyers appear to be captivated by the fact that these electrics are completely different from relatively stodgy electric vehicles of the past.

And, indeed, they are different from the current darlings of the environmental set, the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic and other like-minded hybrids. A hybrid is a combination of gasoline engine and electric motor. The Tesla is a pure electric and has no tailpipe emissions. There are some interesting white papers here that describe the technology.

The car and the firm were named for Serbian electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, who invented alternating current, among a few hundred other things. He died in 1943, half a century before the truncated age of modern electric vehicles.

Tesla was the brainchild of Silicon Valley entrepreneur Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, who co-founded the Rocket e-book firm. “When you make a handheld electronic device,” Eberhard said, “you’re obsessed with the energy density of your batteries. I was also looking for my next car.”

Eventually, he got in touch with Tom Gage, president of AC Propulsion, a San Dimas (Los Angeles County) firm that had already made the TZero, a brutally fast electric-powered sports car. AC had made only a few cars, and Eberhard says he invested in the company and drove its lithium ion-battery-powered car for about three months “as a daily driver.”

“That convinced me that if you set about making a real production car,” Eberhard said, “you could make a nice car, a great sports car and a very efficient car.” Tesla eventually would use some of AC Propulsion’s electronics under license.

Eberhard and Tarpenning wrote a business plan and set about raising money. The big windfall came in April 2004 when PayPal co-founder Elon Musk agreed to invest about $30 million, half the $60 million Tesla eventually raised to get itself into the bigger league world of making cars.

Tesla wants to sell 500 to 800 cars the first year and then ramp up to maybe 2,000 cars a year. Initially, Tesla says it will sell cars in five markets — Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, New York and Miami. Harrigan says those five comprise 65 percent of the luxury sports car market. When it’s time for service, a flatbed truck will pick up a customer’s car and take it to the shop, where it will have its tires rotated and its electric system checked out. No oil and filter change. No tune-up. No valve adjustment.

Down the road, Tesla plans a four-door electric-powered sedan that would sell for somewhere between $50,000 and $65,000. But Tesla isn’t the only one out there pushing these costly electrics.

The king of the heap, pricewise, is the Venturi Fetish, a speedy little electric sports car handmade in Monaco and selling for more than $600,000.Venturi

On a more reasonable front, firms in California and Washington state are developing a range of electric cars that they hope will cater to the burgeoning audience of people who are bored with their run-of-the-mill gas-powered Porsches and BMWs and will opt for something new and different.

Commuter Cars of Spokane, Wash., makes the Tango, something that looks like a four-wheeled motorcycle and was different enough to attract actor George Clooney as its first (and, so far, only) buyer. Commuter Cars Vice President TangoBryan Woodbury says the car will do zero to 60 in four seconds (like the Tesla) and, in the spirit of these exclusive wheels, costs about $108,000.

“It’s the new high-power electronics that is making this possible,” Woodbury said of the immense power he and other manufacturers are seeing in modern electric vehicle machinery. “Now you have electric cars blowing away Dodge Vipers on the drag strip. Electric cars are expensive and fast, because of better motor controllers and better batteries. People just aren’t interested in slow cars.”

In California, Universal Electric Vehicles of Thousands Oaks (Ventura County) makes a convertible sports car (the Electrum Spyder ) that it says will, like the others, be doing that zero to 60 dance in around four seconds, according to Vice President Gregory Lane and will be relatively cheap — under $70,000.Universal

“This is a niche market,” Lane said. “We’re not after the general public. We have a list of potential buyers, and we’re talking production of about 155 Spyders by the third year.” Lane’s wife, Diana, says the firm is trying to secure funding.

Phoenix Motorcars in Ojai figures its niche is SUVs and SUTs (sport utility Phoenixtruck), using bodies made in South Korea and electric motors built in Torrance. The vehicles will sell for about $45,000 each.

Perhaps the most ambitious project in all these may be the one mounted by Ian Wright, a New Zealander who used to work for Tesla and now has his own shop in Burlingame and is raising money.

“I want to build an extreme performance electric sports car,” Wright said the other day, “faster than any production car you can buy for less than $1 million. This would be zero to 60 in three seconds.”


Hybrid has got to be the “way forward”…

Solar Cat If you have read my blog recently then you will also realise that the question of the rising cost of diesel fuel has also been causing a lot of concern and controversy in the UK boating community. So I thought I would carry out an investigation into the practicality of running a boat on pure electric or on hybrid propulsion systems such as combined diesel and electric power.

Although there are drawbacks to hybrid systems – some of which I list below – it reminds me of the early days of the commercialisation of the microcomputers in the 80’s when every advance could be met with derision and scepticsm particularly by those that always think the glass is half empty. Having spent my working career in software development, I have an easy acceptance of rapid change; of innovations that cause step changes; of being periodically surprised by the ingenuity of physicists, chemists, and materials scientists that have created a tipping point so many times over the past 20 years.

This is what will happen in boat building now. I believe that all the drawbacks that people cite will be overcome. Many are already within reach SkySails and lie within the bounds of the current technical horizons of boat design, alternative energy generation, electrical storage, and hybrid propulsion systems.

So with this in mind I set off to research the “state of the art” in pure electric or hybrid propulsion for boats. A good place to start is the very comprehensive US Dept of Energy web site and the related “Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy ” program of the US Dept of Energy. Here you will find out a lot about energy conservation and the US government’s attempts to encourage initiative in all areas of industry, travel, and domestic power and propulsion systems

A long time ago in a land far away…
Of course it is tempting to think that these are new ideas but in fact in 1912 Jack Delmar-Morgan created a motor yacht that was unique. His yacht Mansura was designed to run selectively under petrol, electric or sail power alone or under any combination of these sources. The petrol engine could be started electrically and the yacht was equipped with electric lighting, cooking and water heating systems. The hybrid power train delivered 9 knots under petrol power, between 5 and 8 knots under electric power and 11 knots under both but just as impressive was the silent running and ease of her operation and maneuverability.

It was in memory of him that the Mansura Perpetual Challenge Trophy was launched earlier this year. The idea was to inspire an international competition, recognising innovation in the design, development and operation of marine vessels with hybrid or all-electric propulsion systems. Hundreds of entries were received and of these 25 hybrid designs were followed up in Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the USA as the competition gathered momentum and international recognition, leading to a final shortlist of five contestants from four nations.

Hybrid boats…
Lagoon420This year the Mansura Trophy was awarded to Lagrange Construction Navale de Bordeaux for their Lagoon 420 . All Lagoon 420s will have the new propulsion system as standard – the diesel only version is an option! The propulsion system comprises two electric motors connected to propellers by straight shaft transmissions, one generator and two sets of 6 batteries. When batteries are 100 % charged, the boat will be able to function with both motors for approximately two hours (depending on speed). When batteries are 80% charged, the generator will automatically start and charge the batteries in order to provide electricity for the motors. When sailing, propellers will recharge the batteries. Built using Leroy Somer’s Motor Technology , the new motors offer strong savings in carbon dioxide emissions and engine maintenance.

The Lagoon 420 is a full size cruising cat, there are a large number of smaller pleasure boats that combine solar, diesel, electric and of course sail to create a hybrid boat. There are even giant container vessels that use alternatives to just diesel power including the strange SkySail pictured here.

Here are links to just a few of the designs available…

QM2Of course at the other end of the scale there is the Queen Mary 2 – Four 250 ton Rolls-Royce Mermaid™ electric propulsion pods totalling 80MW drive the QM2 along at almost 30 knots! Ok – its not that simple – The vessel is powered by four Wärtsilä diesel engines, supplemented by two gas turbines. With a total output of 118MW, the power plant develops 157,000hp. The actual propulsion is carried out by four 20MW Rolls Royce MerMaid podded propulsion units, two fixed and two azimuthing through 360°. They incorporate an electric AC motor that directly drives a fixed-pitch propeller with highly skewed blades for low noise and vibration.

So how efficient are these systems ?
It seems that the two most popular suppliers of hybrid systems are Steyr and Leroy-Somer .. plus the Emotion electric drive unit and the OSSA Powerlite genset and accessories

Steyr Motors is now shipping their MO 256/H45 diesel-electric hybrid marine engine that couples a 250hp Steyr diesel engine with a 48 volt 14hp electric motor.

Steyr provides an example that demonstrates the advantages of the engine. They replaced the engines of an older pleasure boat – a 34ft cabin cruiser with twin diesel 225hp engines that cruised at 21 knots and burned 20 gallons per hour. The same boat with two of their new diesel-electric hybrids cruised at 25 knots and burned 12 gallons per hour. So, it’s faster and consumes much less fuel. Well I assume that the diesels replaced were of an old type and not as efficient as a modern unit – but still it makes you think.

Common criticisms..
1. Batteries are too heavy /take up too much space?
Taking the Fastcat435 for example, it uses 11 normal sized 60Ah car batteries – but they can be distributed to advantageous positions in the boat, and depending on the whole system you may not have a conventional generator or other items of equipment.
2. The batteries would cost too much?
Again the Fastcat 435 quote approx. US$1,850 each or US$21,000 for the set of 11 batteries with an anticpated 10 years of life. I dont think any system has been shown to be cheaper in year1. They probably cost 10% more over the cost of a new boat.
3. Certain batteries are a fire risk
Well, lead acid or GEL are no more risk in a hybrid than they are in a normal boat and thats not very much, but some hybrids are using the Lithium Ion batteries that were blamed for the fire on the cat Playstation some years ago. However the Lithium Ion Phosphate batteries will not catch fire and are used on the Airbus aircraft for that reason.
4. Bearings on electric motors wear out.
The development of brushless direct current motors using neodymium magnets has reduced this type of wear.

It seems that I have only talked about problems but here are some excellent resources from advocates of the technology:

This is an extract from Tim Murphy’s article…”Bill Choice, who circumnavigated from 1989 to 2000 aboard a Wauquiez Centurion 47. “The advantages of a hybrid approach for sailboats are even greater than for automobiles, because sailboats have another source of power to tap: the wind,” Choice says. He reckons his hybrid system, which incorporates two gensets and two motors, will cost a third more than if he’d installed two traditional diesel engines and a genset. But for him, that initial investment is outweighed by the advantages, which include cost of ownership and fuel savings brought about by the efficiencies gained throughout the propulsion system; less noise, fumes, vibrations, and heat in the aft cabins; easier maintenance on the gensets; greater maneuverability with faster prop response and greater torque for motoring into wind and swells; regeneration capabilities, especially at sea; better weight distribution of equipment around the boat; and improved resale potential.”

Well time will tell!


Will you be filling your tank at the chip shop?

The process of converting vegetable oil into fuel is called Transesterification. Transesterification of a vegetable oil was conducted as early as 1853 by scientists E. Duffy and J. Patrick.

oil-bottlesIn organic chemistry, transesterification is the process of exchanging the alkoxy group of an ester compound with another alcohol. These reactions are often catalyzed by the addition of an acid or base.

Transesterification is used in the synthesis of polyester, in which diesters undergo transesterification with diols to form macromolecules. For example, dimethyl terephthalate and ethylene glycol react to form polyethylene terephthalate and methanol, which is evaporated to drive the reaction forward. The reverse reaction (methanolysis) is also an example of transesterification, and has been used to recycle polyesters into individual monomers (see plastic recycling).


Thousands of people in the UK are now making their own biofuel. As oil price and duty rises will push diesel prices well beyond the £1-a-litre mark, and as the fueld road duty gets applied to marine diesel – despite the 60/40 rule – should boaters now take the biofuel option seriously?

In the UK it is now legal to make up to 2,500 litres of your own biodiesel, enough to run the average family car, or your thirsty motor yacht, without having to pay tax.

Home brewing

Dan Purkis, a consultant engineer, puts home-brewed fuel into the tanks of his 4×4, even though he is based in Aberdeen – the oil capital of the UK. He admits that messing about with old chip fat is not for everyone but adds: “It’s interesting and fun and it reduces my impact on the environment? He told the BBC’s You and Yours programme: “No special tools were required and nothing was beyond the ability of a typical DIY Merc-Biodiesel 3enthusiast. Most of the parts were bought second hand or salvaged from scrap yards.

“I recycle used vegetable oil from a local hotel. They throw away between 50 and 100 litres a week which would otherwise go to landfill.”

Once he gets it home, he puts the oil through a series of refinements:

* Allows sediment in the oil to settle to the bottom of the bottle
* Pumps and filters the top 70% of the oil; it is pure enough to put straight into his car
* Treats the remaining sludge and converts it into biodiesel by adding methanol and caustic soda
* Heats the oil, causing it to react with the caustic soda

The waste product from this process is glycerin, which has to be washed out of the biodiesel with soap and half-water to half-fuel. He then composts the glycerin.

Mr Purkis says his car runs better on biodiesel: “It’s smoother – better lubricated.”

biodieselSo why dont we all do it now?

Well there are several potential problems:
1). The fat will not flow through the fuel supply pipes
2). The fat clogs in the fuel filter
3). The fat forms an emulsion in the return pipe
4). The fat will not burn effectively
5). The engine will not want to start on the fuel from cold

All of these problems can be overcome. You can do this by modifying the vehicle fuel supply, or modifying the engine itself or by modifying the fuel. Check out this site for a complete run down on overcoming all these problems..

But is it carbon friendly ?…

Well according to this site which is dedicated to low carbon living

* Biodiesel made locally from waste oil: 1 litre = 0.6 to 1 kg CO2
* Biodiesel made locally from waste oil and with ethanol distilled from plant materials locally: 1 litre = 0kg CO2 🙂
* Used vegetable oil: 1litre = 0kg CO2 🙂

If you are making biodiesel and wondering what the CO2 impact is:

* Methanol made from natural gas: 1 litre = 4.6kg CO2
* Methanol made from coal: 1 litre = 9kg CO2
* Methanol / Ethanol made from vegetable sources: 1 litre = 0kg CO2 🙂

If you are looking for something to do on 17/18 October you can joing thousands of enthusiasts at the Biofuels Expo to get info on how to set up your own filter system. This is the largest bioenergy event in Europe with over 100 Exhibitors showcasing the latest developments in the Biofuel and Bioenergy markets.